Portfolio Design: How to Make a Graphic Design Portfolio
Creating a portfolio is an essential step in being a graphic design professional and establishing your unique brand or style. Learn more about how to make a graphic design portfolio.
What is a portfolio?
A graphic design portfolio is the collection of graphic designs and artwork projects that you want to present to professional, niche, or public audiences. A well-crafted design portfolio should be curated, with hand-picked selections that fit the specific nature of the portfolio. For example, you might have a graphic design portfolio for a specific job, as a collection of themed works on your website, or for other distinct applications. Think of your portfolio as your resume: it should demonstrate your applicable skills and experience to others. Ultimately, it should express these characteristics:
- Technical skills and understanding of different media or digital art platforms
- Relevant range of experience, especially for technical drawings or highly competitive industries
- Evidence of work history and ability to meet deadlines
- Different design styles to showcase your ability to meet clients' design requirements and particulars
Your portfolio should also include references, case studies, and contact details for past clients whenever possible.
Depending on the nature of your work, your graphic design portfolio might be made of photographs, print-outs, or physical pieces, or it might be a digital collection of scans and digital renderings.
How to make a graphic design portfolio
Follow these steps to create a high-quality graphic design portfolio:
- Carefully consider the purpose of the portfolio: You may need different portfolios for specific clients in different niches, general portfolios to highlight your professional skills, and portfolios as you apply for salaried positions. It's important to create a curated collection of design examples that best fit the intended goal.
- Choose your medium or platform: There are lots of different avenues you can choose between to display your portfolio. This includes a personal website, profiles on job platforms or online graphic design communities, and physical portfolios.
- Include content that describes your process: If you're showing your design portfolio in person, be ready to discuss your creative process and answer questions about how you can integrate your unique process to meet a client's needs. However, you may not always be there in person to explain how you work. So include descriptive text that outlines your process. Alternatively, choose selections that demonstrate how you make your graphic designs, such as designs at different stages of production or illustrations before and after revisions.
- Round out your portfolio with creative and experimental work: While it's important to demonstrate that you can operate within the expected requirements and niche of a job or client, it's also important to demonstrate growth. Non-client work, hobby pieces, and experiments with new techniques also have a place in your portfolio because they demonstrate your range and your ability to bring new skills to the table. This is also a great way to showcase your personality and stand out from the crowd.
Tips for graphic design examples
Part of creating a portfolio is protecting your work and your ownership (or, for sold work, previous ownership) of the pieces. This is especially vital if you're sharing your portfolio online. Consider these tips:
- Create a signature logo that you can add to the corner of your designs. This shouldn't obstruct the piece, but it should make it difficult for others to steal.
- Add a watermark. Watermarks prevent casual theft and help you trace copies of your work.
- Save and display in-progress versions of your work. This 'documentation' establishes that you worked on each layer.
- Publish your signature work on many platforms. By developing a clear identity as a graphic designer, you're less likely to have work stolen — and you can better respond to issues of ownership.
Final thoughts about portfolio design
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